Case logjams grow in pandemic
Experts suggest digitisation to address the problem, noting that the pandemic may linger
Case backlogs in courts across the country increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, which hampered regular court activities.
Law experts say the law ministry and the Supreme Court should ensure smooth court operations through rapid digitisation as the pandemic may linger.
Former law minister Barrister ShafiqueAhmed told The Business Standard people always have the right to get justice no matter what the situation in the country is as crimes are always committed.
He said trials are being held using technology in many countries of the world during the pandemic but not in Bangladesh.
The government should take immediate steps to reduce case logjams by ensuring the use of information technology, he added.
According to the Supreme Court data, the number of lawsuits in different courts in the country till December 2019 was 36.84 lakh, which increased to 39.2 lakh a year later.
Experts say after coronavirus disrupted regular court activities in March last year, virtual courts were set up in May on a limited scale to hear emergency cases.
Later in September, normal court activities resumed, but it was not possible to lessen the pile-up of cases created in the next six months.
Constitution expert Dr Shahdeen Malik said case backlogs in courts had increased in normal times as well before the pandemic.
"The authorities concerned do not take initiatives that are supposed to be taken to address such backlogs. Even if initiatives are taken, they are not implemented."
Information technology use act not implemented
Former Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque said the law on using information technology in court operations enacted in July last year had not been implemented.
He said the law had been enacted to ensure the virtual presence of both parties in a case during trial, judicial inquiry, submitting petitions, appeal hearing, deposition hearing, argument hearing, and giving order or verdict.
"But it remains to be seen how many courts in the country have been able to ensure virtual proceedings."
The law had been enacted to ensure the virtual presence of both parties in a case during trial, judicial inquiry, submitting petitions, appeal hearing, deposition hearing, argument hearing, and giving order or verdict. But it remains to be seen how many courts in the country have been able to ensure virtual proceedings
The chairman of the law commission also said sections 2 and 4 of the Evidence Act need to be amended to hear depositions and arguments virtually.
"If it is not possible to amend the act, the matter should be mentioned in the information technology use act. The act should say that whatever the Evidence Act says, there shall be no impediment to virtually hearing depositions and arguments. But the new law does not say that," noted the former chief justice.
He said the information technology use act has been enacted but it does not seem to have been implemented.
"Although some urgent hearings have been held, I do not know of any case trial that has been held virtually."
The law commission chairman further said it is not enough to make laws and a favourable environment has to be created for their implementations.
He said the law commission had made several recommendations to the government to resolve case backlogs.
"There were various suggestions and guidelines in those recommendations. If those can be implemented, case backlogs will decrease a lot."
Ali Akbar, registrar general (senior district and sessions judge) of the Supreme Court, said various initiatives had been taken to address case backlogs since the beginning of the pandemic.
"Those have been implemented as well. Further initiatives will be taken if needed."